Friday, April 29, 2011

Installation Service - does that hurt?

This Sunday will be my official installation service as the new pastor here at the Gaylord Evangelical Free Church (GEFC) in Gaylord, Michigan. I think most people might go, "What in the world is an 'installation' service?" It kind of sounds painful, doesn't it? Actually I think it is more of an important element to the church than it is to the new pastor. It is an opportunity for the church leadership to put their official "stamp of approval" of sorts on saying, "we believe that this is God's man for this church at this time." It is a time for the congregation to dedicate their new pastor to the ministry and to the Lord!

Several of the church leaders will be saying a few words including Glen Catt, who is the Elder Board Chairman; Ed Hunt, who is the Church Chairman; and Margus Wegmeyer, who was the chairman of the Search Team that brought me here to GEFC. Rick Thompson, who is the district superintendent of the E-Free churches will be giving a charge to the congregation. I have not met Rick as of yet and look forward to getting to know him. And my ministry mentor, Pastor Steve Peters, will be joining us to give the charge to me as the new pastor. Steve has been to me what the Apostle Paul was to Timothy and I am thrilled to have him share in this service.

It reminds me of a very special service that took place in my life 20 years ago back on Sunday, February 3, 1991. That was the day of my ordination service at the church where I started in ministry, serving under Pastor Steve Peters. The picture above is of the leaders of that church and our fathers laying their hands on Laura and myself and praying for us. That was also the day of my daughter's first birthday. 20 years ago I never dreamed God would ultimately take me to northern Michigan but I am absolutely thrilled to be here and to be part of this special church.

I am very much looking forward to this Sunday and to this special event. 20 years ago on the cake celebrating my ordination into the ministry, Pat Deal (who made the cake) created it with the quote from D.L. Moody on it - "If God be your partner, make your plans large!" That quote is still my favorite quote of all-time. God is our partner where at GEFC, so let's make our plans large and believe God to do through us immeasurably more than anything we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Pastor...My Mentor

This Sunday is my installation service here at the Gaylord Evangelical Free Church (GEFC) in Gaylord, Michigan. I am thrilled to be able to have my mentor, Steve Peters, with us as part of the program.

I first met Steve after my freshman year of college. My parents had moved from Akron, Ohio to Hagerstown, Maryland and Steve was the youth pastor at the church they were attending there. Shortly after that, Steve became the Senior Pastor at the Community Church in West Milton, OH. He brought me out for the summers after my sophomore and Junior years of college to be his summer intern youth pastor. After graduating from college in 1987, Steve hired me as his full-time youth pastor.

I served under Steve for 9 years in this capacity. I wish every young pastor could have a "first ministry" under someone like Steve. My ministry philosophy was shaped by my time with Steve. He taught me two lessons I still fall back on today. First, he taught me that if I was going to err, be sure to err on the side of grace. Even in the most difficult times of my ministry I have tried to live out that principle. Steve also taught me that I am free to do anything but sin in order to reach people for Jesus. That philosophy still drives me today as my greatest passion is to see as many as possible come to faith in Christ through the local church.

During my 9 years with Steve, the times that meant the most to me were the multiple hours we spent in his office "chewing the fat" as we discussed ministry, life in the church, and what it means to be pastor. To this day there are times I wish I could just go sit in his office and continue those amazing conversations.

I am thrilled to have Steve, and his wife (Sue), with us this weekend. Steve is my pastor. Every pastor needs a pastor and Steve will always be mine. Steve is also my mentor. To this day he is the one I turn to when I need help or advice. But Steve is also my spiritual hero. If I can be half the pastor to others that he has been to me, I will consider myself successful.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jesus' Most Significant Miracle

This week I began to lead our ministry staff here at Gaylord E-Free through what I believe is the greatest miracle Jesus performed. I am speaking of the incident when He takes the 5 loaves and 2 fish and feeds 5,000 men plus women and children. Why do I say this is Jesus' most significant miracle? Because outside of the resurrection of Jesus Himself, this is the only miracle of Jesus spoken of in all 4 Gospel accounts. That is not true of any other miracle.

So what can we learn from this food multiplication? I believe that Jesus performed this miracle primarily for the benefit of His own disciples, to teach them how they were to do ministry after He was gone. From this miracle I see 8 principles regarding doing ministry today. The first principle is this - ministry today doesn't begin with the fish and the begins by developing a heart of compassion.

According to Matthew 14, Jesus had just heard of the gruesome death of John the Baptist. In his humanness, His heart must have ached. He also desired to have some "alone time" with His disciples to hear their reports of the ministry trips they had just returned from completing. So He and the disciples get into a boat and head to a secluded spot. But the crowds realize where He is going and they beat Him there so that when He arrives, there is a crowd desiring His time and His attention.

Now if I had been Jesus, the text would say, "And Scott felt agitation!" But Matthew 14:14 says that Jesus felt "compassion" on them - so much so that He postpones His agenda and ministers to the people. Jesus was demonstrating to His disciples, and to us today, that ministry begins by developing a heart of compassion.

The disciples didn't get it. As evening came they encouraged Jesus to "send the crowds away." Just one chapter later, when they run into a hurting woman who keeps hollering for Jesus to help her, the disciples beg Jesus to "send her away" because she keeps shouting at them. Where is the compassion in that?

The disciples didn't get it. Ministry didn't begin with the fish and the bread, it began with a heart of compassion. I wonder if we get it today! I wonder if I get it! Ministry doesn't begin with worship services and preaching - it begins with a true, genuine heart of compassion for people. A compassion that is so real that we are willing to postpone our ministry agendas to invest in the lives of hurting people.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Caught in the Rain

Being above reproach is also avoiding the appearance of evil. In the culture we live in today, we have to take this seriously, especially those of us who are in ministry. Peter teaches that Satan is like a roaring lion roaming around seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Since this is true, can we ever afford to let our guard down, even for one minute? This verse compels me as a pastor to live my live in a way that not only protects myself from falling into sexual misconduct but also protects me from the appearance of evil.

In the book of Genesis we learn that Potiphar's wife (we don't know her name in Scripture so I refer to the couple as "Potiphar and Hotiphar") has made it obvious that she would like to have an intimate rendezvous with the young, handsome Joseph. But Joseph is able to resist these ongoing advances. But the day comes that, though he again resists, he is falsely accused by "Hotiphar" and winds up in prison. There is a phrase in the verse that describes the leading up to this encounter that I find interesting. Genesis 39:11 says,

"Now it happened one day that he went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the household was there inside."

Suddenly Joseph finds himself alone with "Hotiphar" and, though he stands strong to the temptation she puts in front of him, he ends up falsely accused. This verse, along with the wisdom shared with me from mentors in my life, have caused me to take very seriously my need to protect myself from even the appearance of sexual misconduct. As a result, I rigidly follow the following three guidelines:

I make my relationship with my wife a priority. We talk openly about dangerous situations. I listen to her when she tells me that there is a person or a situation that she sees in my life that makes her uncomfortable. I believe that she is my first line of defense.

I refuse to be alone with any woman other than my own family. Because of this, I will not meet with a woman at their home. Nor will I meet with a woman in my office unless someone else is in the immediate office area the entire time. When I arrived at Gaylord E-Free, my office door did not have a window in it and there is a good amount of traffic outside of the door. To meet with anyone in my office necessitates the door being closed. At my wife's prompting and wisdom, I had them put a window in the door. This way anytime I am in my office meeting with anyone, there is always open access for others to see inside.

I will not ride alone with a woman other than my family. If there is a meeting that a lady on staff and myself need to attend - we will ride separately. When our kids were young and a teenage girl babysat for us, my wife would take her home afterwards. If I am driving in town by myself and it is raining cats and dogs and a woman I know is walking down the street getting drenched and waves at me, obviously wanting a dry ride, guess what I am going to do? I am going to wave back! I am going to pray for them! I'll make a call for them! But I am afraid they are going to continue to get wet because I am not going to pick them up!

Some of you reading this may think that these are rather ridiculous guidelines. I don't! Neither does my wife! And I bet if I could talk with Joseph today, he wouldn't either!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Recap

Jesus didn't come out of the tomb simply to change your day - Jesus conquered death in order to change your life. That was the mantra of sorts for our Easter celebration here at the Gaylord Evangelical Free Church (GEFC) and what a great weekend it was.

It all started Friday night with the community Living Lord's Supper in which many of our community churches came together for a Good Friday night of worship, communion and reflection. I especially enjoyed the worship that evening which was led by a band made up of singers and musicians from several different churches. It really was special and meaningful to meet together as the Body of Christ from many different churches and denominations, but who all worship Jesus as the only way to heaven.

Saturday morning was a long morning of rehearsing for the GEFC Easter service. But this was not simply a rehearsal - it really was a morning of worship. Getting this all done on Saturday allowed all of the morning's participants to come together on Easter Sunday and spend a good 30 minutes in worship and prayer before the service began. I honestly will say that for me this was the best part of the Easter weekend. Many of the service participants shared their excitement and enthusiasm for what God was doing in their lives and what we anticipated Him doing in the service. It really was an awesome time of prayer, worship and fellowship. Worship before the worship - what a great concept!

Then came the Easter service itself. The place was literally packed with a standing room only crowd. Their was a whole lot of excitement in the air. I was thrilled with every aspect of the morning. The music was inspirational. The drama and other visual components were creative. The testimonies and videos were absolutely powerful. The Spirit of God was definitely in the service and when the invitation was given we saw many people come forward and trust Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. I loved talking to many of the counselors afterwards and hearing their stories and seeing their joy in being able to lead these precious folks into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

After the service, one very sweet lady said to me, "God is doing something here in Gaylord!" She's right. He really is and I am absolutely thrilled that God has directed my life to bring me to Gaylord, Michigan and GEFC to be a part of it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Have You Seen Him?

This Sunday is Easter and it will be my first Easter at the Gaylord E-Free Church. Easter is meaningful to me for several reasons. Obviously, it is meaningful due to the celebration of the greatest event in the history of the world - the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But it is also special for me because it was on Easter morning, 29 years ago, that I preached my very first sermon as a junior in High School. It was at the sunrise service of the Cuyahoga Falls Baptist Church in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio and the message was entitled, "Is It Just Another Day."

Now, 29 years later, I will have the thrill of preaching here at the E-Free Church in Gaylord, MI on Easter Sunday. Joshua Rupp, our Director of Worship here at the E-Free Church, and his service planning team have done an outstanding job of putting together what I believe will be an amazing morning.

The theme is "Have You Seen Him?" From the moment you arrive for the 9:30 service you will be greeted by characters from that first Resurrection morning as they scurry through the foyer and auditorium spreading the buzz and asking the question, "Have you seen Him?" There will be visual elements taking place during the service, inspiring music of worship and celebration, and humorous yet thought-provoking videos that will help us to focus our thoughts on the fact that Jesus is a resurrected Savior. Through the message we will see that along with being a resurrected Savior, Jesus is also a restorer of broken lives and He is a returning King! Perhaps the highlight of the morning will be two personal stories being shared from individuals about how Easter and Jesus has impacted their lives. A full nursery and children's program will also be taking place.

If you are in the Gaylord, MI area, you don't want to miss Easter at the E-Free Church. Invite everyone you know to come and be a part of this morning as we pull out all of the stops to celebrate the resurrection. It is our hope and our prayer that Easter this year won't just change your day, but rather, it will change your life and your eternity!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Candle of Hope

Tuesday night I had the joy of attending the fundraising banquet for the New Life Pregnancy Resource Center that was held here at the E-Free Church. Though a winter storm was dumping upwards of another foot of snow on northern Michigan outside, the program inside was amazing.

I loved listening to the two testimonies of the two young ladies whose lives, pregnancies, and ultimately babies, were greatly impacted through the Center. I was able to sit at the table that one of these young ladies was at for the dinner with her two wonderful children. How amazing!

The Executive Director spoke for a few minutes on how God has used the Center over the past year and what their vision was for the future. I love to see people with passion. I get excited when I see people who have big dreams for God. D.L. Moody once said, "If God be your partner, make your plans large!" This lady has done just that. Her vision for the Center is HUGE and I have already begun asking God to give it to her and more. After all, He is a God who can do immeasurably more than anything we could ever ask or imagine!

As I sat at the banquet, I was reminded of what I heard Dr Falwell say many times in my four years at Liberty. He would say, "Don't curse the darkness unless you are willing to light a candle of hope!" The New Life Pregnancy Resource Center is just that - a candle of hope! It was a joy to empty out my wallet that night for the offering so that even more abortion-minded ladies can find the hope of life through this wonderful ministry!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Change Your DAY or Change Your LIFE?

Easter is just a few days away now. This will be my first Easter here in northern Michigan. It will be a bit harder to hide the colorful plastic Easter Eggs up here as the ground is covered with snow as another "winter storm" invades what I think is supposed to be "spring." Yet, I have heard that here in Gaylord, Michigan, they have seen snow in every month of the calendar year in the past. Fortunately, the weather doesn't change the significance of Easter. So what will you do this Easter?

New clothes?

Easter Baskets?

Color Easter Eggs?

Hunt Easter Eggs?

Attend Church?

Family Dinner?

My guess is that this Sunday will be a change of pace for you over your typical Sundays. And well it should be! I like all that stuff listed above - its' great! It's Easter! Let's pull out all the stops! Let's celebrate! But as we move closer and closer to Easter 2011, let me leave you with one question to really ponder over the next several days"

Will this Easter simply change your "DAY" or will it change your "LIFE"? Jesus didn't defeat death to simply change your "DAY" this Sunday! He came up out of that grave to change your "LIFE" and to change it for all of "ETERNITY"! Now that is something really worth celebrating!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Praying for your WAX problem!

I don't go to the doctor much. I've been pretty healthy over my 46 years. But 2 or 3 times a year I have to make my way to the doctor's office for one very personal problem. I have a wax problem. I'm not sure why, but my ears produce wax like it's going out of style. If they would produce gold like they produce wax it sure would be nice! So several times a years I need someone withe the letters "M.D." behind their name to clean the wax out of my ears.

The truth is that there are many followers of Jesus who have a different type of wax problem. It isn't with their ears, it is with their heart. In Philippians 1:9-10, Paul prays for believers, that their love would abound more and more in real knowledge and all discernment. The reason for this, in verse 10, is "so that they may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the Day of Christ." The word "approve" means to "analyze." It is actually used in Luke 12:56 to describe someone who analyzed the signs around them in order to predict the weather. The idea is that believers would be able to analyze and discern what is the most excellent way to live as followers of Jesus.

This, according to verse 10, allows us to be "sincere" and "blameless." The word "sincere" means "without wax." When pottery was made, often it would crack under the pressure of the fire. Dishonest merchants would fill the cracks with wax and then sell it as if it were a pure piece, not telling of the cracking that took place in the process. Honest merchants would make you aware of the difference. They would do so by describing the pure and non-cracked pieces of pottery as being "without wax" or "sincere." What a great prayer for us to pray for each other as believers in Jesus. I need to pray for you and you need to pray for me that our hearts would be "without wax," that we we would be sincere, not trying to hide the cracks in our lives and pretend to others that they aren't there.

So maybe we all need to take a trip to the doctor and have our heart checked for wax build-up. To remove this build-up you can't just visit any doctor - you need the Great Physician, Jesus Christ!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Three Strikes BUT Not Out!

I love baseball. I really do! I can watch the great American past-time being played all day long. In fact, my dream is to retire (I'm thinking around the age of 47) and spend one full summer traveling so that I catch a game at every Major League stadium in the same season.

I love baseball - but I really don't enjoy poetry. But my love for baseball has made one poem my personal favorite. It was written by Ernest Lawrence Thayer and first published in the San Francisco Examiner on June 3, 1888. It is called Casey at the Bat and it ends with these words:

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright; The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light, Somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout; But there is not joy in Mudville - mighty Casey has stuck out.

The same thing could be said about Simon Peter, the disciple of Jesus. He seemed to be the leader of the Disciples. He had some huge victories in his "career." After all, outside of Jesus, Peter will be the only one in heaven who will be able to tell us what it was like to walk on water, even if only for a few steps. But on the night of Jesus' arrest, as he stood in the courtyard of the High Priest, where inside Jesus was being tried, we see Peter's greatest point of failure.

A servant girl said to him, "You were with Jesus!" Peter denied it! STRIKE ONE!

The servant girl went on to point him out to others saying, "This is one of them!" Again Peter denied it! STRIKE TWO!

The bystanders than began to say, "You must be a follower of Jesus! We recognize your Galilean accent!" Peter responds, "I do not know this man!" WOW! He went from calling Jesus "The Christ, the Living One, the Son of God," to calling Him, "this man!" STRIKE THREE! You can almost hear the poem being read:

Oh, somewhere in this favored land, the sun is shining bright; The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light, Somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout; But there is no joy in Jerusalem - mighty Peter has struck out.

Three strikes - but Peter was NOT out! On Easter Sunday here at the Gaylord E-Free Church, we will look at two words found in the resurrection account given by Mark that cannot be found in any of the other three gospel accounts. Outside of the words, "He is not here! He has risen," I think they are the two most exciting words in the entire Easter story!

Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope for Hurting Pastors" at You can leave a comment at either blog or email me directly at

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Whole Lot To Be Excited About

As I wrap up the work week and get ready to head into the weekend, there are just so many things that have me pumped when it comes to what God is doing in my life and in the ministry here at the Gaylord Evangelical Free Church (GEFC)! For example:

This past Tuesday I got to experience the Food Truck Ministry here at GEFC. Each month a semi truck filled from front to back and top to bottom with all kinds of foods arrives at our church and the gymnasium becomes a grocery store. Literally hundreds of people from the county, most of whom have really been struggling with the recession and the hurting Michigan economy, are able to come and take home a grocery cart of food free of charge. As I watch GEFC care for the people of this community I can't help but borrow the phrase I often hear my good friend, Rick Glass, say...I LOVE MY CHURCH!

I was able to do my radio program again this past Wednesday on Eagle 101.5. What a thrill it is to be able to sit across from Mike, the DJ, and discuss what Easter is all about and to be able to explain how Good Friday and Easter are the two elements of the Good News of the Gospel - and to do so live on the air. Mike asked me to come up with a theme song to end my show with each week. Since it is a "classics" station I chose the old Billy Withers song, "Lean On Me!"

Today Laura and I close on and get occupancy of our new house. We are very excited about where God has place us and believe He has some Divine reasons for us being in the Dixon Lake Estates area of Gaylord. This weekend we clean and paint like mad because our furniture arrives from Pennsylvania at 7am Monday!

Saturday is the Higher Call Men's Conference here at GEFC. What a great day it is going to be with an amazing line-up of worship artists and speakers. Over 500 men have already registered and with all the walk-ins we will have, we could exceed the 600 mark in attendance. Imagine what could happen as God grabs the heart of over 500 men from Northern Michigan!

Sunday will be another exciting morning of worship at GEFC including several people getting baptized. I love to watch people take steps of faith in their walk with the Lord. Sunday morning I will end our 3-week mini-series we have called "Simon Says" as we look at that small window of time in the life of Simon Peter from right after the Last Supper through his third denial of Jesus. In fact, this Sunday we will also see how the old poem, "Might Casey At The Bat" fits into the message. I will also be swinging a golf club on stage come Sunday morning. That may not seem like much to you but you have to realize that I have never once swung a golf club on a real golf course. I wonder if that will change now that I live in Michigan's Golfing Mecca?

And if all of this is not enough to get me excited, Easter is right around the corner. What a service we have planned with the theme, "Have Your Seen Him?" With video, props, drama, music and message all being involved, it is going to be a great morning of celebration! Enjoy Your Weekend! I know I will!

Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at You can leave a comment at either blog or email me directly at

Thursday, April 14, 2011

2195 Deepwoods Drive

Tomorrow we close and get occupancy on our new house which is located at 2195 Deepwoods Drive in the Dixon Lake Estates of Gaylord, Michigan. We absolutely love our house and are looking forward to opening our new home often to build relationships with the wonderful people of GEFC. If you are ever in the area, stop by and say "hello"!

Be sure to read my other blog entitled, "Hope for Hurting Pastors," at You can leave a comment at either blog or email me directly at

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Exclamation Point to the Sunday Message

I am very excited about tonight as it will be the first meeting of the Life Group that Laura and I will be leading. Life Groups are the small groups ministry here at the Gaylord E-Free Church (GEFC). I love the way they are done here. Each week as I prepare the message I also prepare a series of questions for the Life Groups. This allows the leaders of these groups to use these questions throughout the week as they meet to dig further into the message and to more easily see the applications to their lives. In my opinion, this makes Life Groups the "Exclamation Point" of the Sunday message. Life Group questions are broken down into three areas:

Getting To Know Me!

Getting Into The Word!

Getting Into My Daily Life!

Of course, the best part of Life Groups are the opportunities to connect with others in a more intimate setting. As GEFC continues to grow, this becomes even more vital. The truth is that even now, running around 600 in attendance on Sundays, we will never really get to know everybody that attends. We are already beyond that and we will, by the grace of God, continue to grow and reach even more people, making this even more of a challenge. That is why Life Groups are so essential to the spiritual health of those who attend GEFC. It gives you the chance, not just to attend church, but to get connected.

Tonight Laura and I will be part of our very first Life Group here at GEFC! We can't wait to be part of this small group and to make connections with others who will be in our group. We can't wait to have our Life Group become the Exclamation Point to the message from Sunday!

Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at You can leave a comment at either blog or email me directly at

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I Have Met The Eneny And It Is The Flu!

Saturday night as Laura and I sat in the living room of the Lake Cotttage we are staying in watching television, I couldn't keep my eyes open. I mean, I was out of it. It was very strange. Come 2:30am on Sunday, I knew why. That was the first of many trips to the restroom due to the flu. In between those trips down the hall there was very little sleep.

I still managed to make it to church Sunday morning. I got into my office right about 9:30 and sat at my desk, bucket in hand, waiting for my time to preach. It was a very special Sunday here at the Gaylord E-Free Church (GEFC) as our 65 High Schoolers who had been gone the previous week on Spring Break to Florida shared what God had done in their lives. I took my bucket and moved over to the conference room that has speakers giving the audio from the auditorium so that I could listen to these testimonies. Even feeling as horrible as I felt, I was moved to tears listening to these young people share so openly what the Lord had shown them on their trip and about the commitments they had made - especially those who had trusted Jesus to be their Lord and Savior for the first time. Even the flu can't stop one from rejoicing in that!

The teens finished sharing and I closed things up with a challenge to them as to how they can keep their commitments even when the feelings of the trip have subsided. I was so glad that I didn't have to rush off the stage to my bucket that was tucked away back stage "just in case." I ended by telling the congregation that if these teens had just won a state championship in some sport we would go nuts. We would yell. We would cheer. We would whistle. But in reality, they have done something far better. They have publicly taken a stand to follow Jesus. So I gave the congregation the opportunity to respond to them in a way greater than if they had won a state championship. And boy, did they respond. I don't think I have ever heard that much noise in church befrore...ever. It was great.

I don't remember much about the rest of Sunday. Monday I couldn't make it off the couch. I felt like I had been run over multiple times. I guess you could say that over the weekend I met the enemy, and for me, the enemy was THE FLU!

Be sure to read my other blog entitled Hope For Hurting Pastors at You can leave a comment at either blog or email me directly at

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Spiritual A.P.B.

When a suspect is on the run, the police will put out an A.P.B. or an All Points Bulletin giving the description of the suspect, what they were last seen wearing, and what they were last seen driving. This allows all law enforcement officers to be on the look out for this suspect so that the citizens are protected. As we continued our Simon Says message series last Sunday here at Gaylord E-Free, we issued a three point spiritual A.P.B. for all believers. We took each point from the story of Simon Peter with Jesus in the garden the night He was arrested. Here are the three points of our spiritual A.P.B.

A = ALERTNESS! After the last supper Jesus took the disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. He left 8 of them at one spot and took Peter, James and John deeper into the garden where He asked them to pray with Him as He went off by himself and prayed in such agony that his sweat drops became turned to blood. Three different times He went back to the three disciples and found them sleeping. Jesus gives them two exhortations. The first in verse 38 was to "Keep Watching!" In other words, we need to live in a continual state of spiritual alertness. Why? Peter would later write in 1 Peter 5:8 that we need to always be on the alert because our adversary, the devil, is constantly roaming around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. If you have ever watched those National Geographic shows where the lion takes down the gazelle for dinner, you realize that the lion waits to see what poor gazelle, due to sickness or lack of alertness, gets well behind the rest of the herd. That is the one the lion goes after and that is why we have a need to live in a state of spiritual alertness.

P = PRAYER! In verse 38 Jesus tells them to keep watching and "Keep Praying!" But notice the reason for this that He gives - "so that you may not come into temptation." In other words, be continually praying that you will not fall into temptation. Don't just wait until you are being tempted to pray - be praying about it now. I would guess that each of us knows at least one way we will most likely be tempted to sin this week. If that's the case, start praying about that now! Start now asking God to give you the alertness and courage to say "no" to that temptation when it arises.

B = BIBLE INTAKE! After Jesus is done praying, the mob, led by Judas, comes to arrest Him. Peter draws out his sword and chops off one of the temple guard's ears. By the way, Peter was a fisherman, not a solider - I doubt he was aiming for the guy's ear. Fortunately for Maclchus (the name of the guy who lost his ear), Peter was a bad aim. Luke records that Jesus healed Malchus's ear. John records that Jesus rebukes Peter and tells him to put his sword away. Why? Because Jesus was facing a spiritual battle not a physical battle. You don't fight spiritual battles with physical weapons. So what sword should we use? In Ephesians 6:12-17, Paul describes are spiritual battle and details our only weapon. He calls it The Sword of the Spirit which he identifies as The Word of God. If we are going to see victory in our spiritual battles, we must daily be taking the Bible, the Sword of the Spirit, into our mind and into our heart.

Be sure to also read my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at You can leave a comment at either blog or email me directly at

Friday, April 08, 2011

Police Lingo

I have to admit - I like watching police shows on television. From the abundance of Law and Order takes, to NCIS and NCIS Los Angeles, to CSI, to Chicago Code, to Blue Bloods, the TV programming is filled with police dramas. As good as the modern police shows are, I still will take the ones from my childhood over them any day. I use to love Police Woman starting Angie Dickinson, Kojak, and the original Hawaii 5-0 (which is far better than the modern rendition on television today). But my favorite police shows when I was young were Adam-12 and Starsky and Hutch. Like most kids, watching these shows made me want to be a policeman or detective when I grew up.

I remember having a police scanner as a kid and spending each night listening to the conversations between the dispatcher and the officers. Between the police shows on TV and the scanner I picked up on all of the "Police Lingo." You know, things like "2-11 in progress" and "A.P.B." If you have watched any police shows on television you know what "A.P.B." stands for. It stands for "All Points Bulletin." When the police were searching for someone they would put out an A.P.B. giving the description of the individual including what they last were wearing and the vehicle they were last seen driving.

This Sunday here at the Gaylord Evangelical Free Church (GEFC) I want to put out an A.P.B. - a spiritual All Points Bulletin. Our 65 or so High Schoolers who spent this past week of Spring Break on our annual Florida Trip with Pastor Newell and his staff will all be sitting on stage and will be taking time in the morning service to share what God did in their lives this past week. I will then take the closing time to share a message as part of our Simon Says series as we look at the life of Peter in that short window of time between the ending of the last supper and his third denial of Jesus.

Though the congregation will be listening in, my message will be directed toward these High Schoolers as they return after experiencing some great spiritual victories and on a spiritual high. I will be issuing to them a spiritual A.P.B. which will include three challenges that can help them to continue in their commitments in the days, weeks and months ahead of them.

So in the spirit of Adam-12 and Starsky and Hutch, this Sunday we issue a spiritual A.P.B. here at GEFC! If you don't live local to Gaylord, Michigan, be sure to go online ( starting Sunday afternoon and listen to the audio recording of the service.

Be sure to also read my other blog, entitled Hope for Hurting Pastors, at You can leave a comment at either blog or email me directly at

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Hey - Baseball Started!!

What is undoubtedly one my favorite days of the year has passed and I, for all practical purposes, missed the impact of it. I am talking about the opening day of the Major League Baseball season. I love sports (with the exception of NASCAR which I don't consider a real sport! Sorry, Race Fans!), but to me baseball is the crown jewel of athletics. One thing I gained from my dad was a love for this great American past-time.

But this year, though I caught glimpses of it, I really missed the full impact of this special day of the year when the bunting is hung around Major League stadiums everywhere and we get to hear those two glorious words, "Play Ball!" This year the opening of the baseball season occurred as I was right smack dab in the middle of trying to settle into my new ministry role here at the Gaylord Evangelical Free Church (GEFC) in beautiful Gaylord, Michigan.

We are now a week into the season and I still don't think it has really hit me that it's baseball season. Maybe its because when I look out the window of my office I still see the ground covered with snow and the lake I can see from the dining room window of the home where we are staying until we close on our house is still covered with ice with ice fisherman still conducting their sport. But yet, hundreds of miles from northern Michigan baseball is being played and that does my heart good.

I guess the thing I like most about opening day is that it is that one day a year when every baseball fan, no matter what team they root for, can have optimism that maybe, just maybe, this might be the year for their team. And for people like me who are die-hard fans of the Cleveland Indians, that day is special because it usually doesn't take too long into the new season before our motto turns to, "Wait until next year!" But for now...GO INDIANS! PLAY BALL!

Be sure to read my other blog, Hope for Hurting Pastors, at You can leave a comment at either blog or email me directly at

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

May I Wash Your Feet?

Monday night was my first Elder Meeting with the Elder Board here at the Gaylord Evangelical Free Church (GEFC). I wanted to begin my relationship with these men in a very special way so I asked if I could have the first 30 minutes of the meeting to accomplish this. We sat in a semi-circle and I read the passage from John 13 where Jesus washes the feet of the disciples as part of His last supper with them.

Over the past 24 years of being a pastor in the Grace Brethren Fellowship, foot-washing became a special part of my worship. We would participate as a church in washing each other's feet several times a year as part of our communion service. Obviously, foot-washing was a cultural element in Jesus' day, but not the way Jesus did it that night spoken about in John 13. What He did was beyond culture which was evident by the disciples confusion. Some would suggest that by washing the disciples' feet, Jesus was simply teaching the need for servanthood. There is no doubt that servanthood was part of Jesus' actions, but I it wasn't the main teaching. It seems obvious to me from the passage that the main picture of what Jesus did was one of "spiritual cleansing."

I shared with these men how when I first got introduced to foot-washing it really freaked me out. I thought the worst part would be having to wash another person's feet. But what I found was that washing another person's feet was really no problem at all. The part that was really difficult was allowing them to wash mine. That's why before I went to communion I would always wash my own feet first and clip my toenails so as not to be embarrassed. But yet, every time I choose to sin, I have a Savior who is willing to wash my spiritual feet. His death on the cross brings me daily cleansing. That is the picture of foot-washing.

After I explained that Monday night at Elder meeting, I asked these men if they would give me the privilege of washing each of their feet. It was a symbolic way for me to be a picture to each one of them of the wonderful Savior we have who daily cleanses us from our sin. It also allowed me to physically demonstrate my commitment to submit to them as spiritual leaders in my life and to communicate my commitment to be a servant leader to them as an Elder Board and to the entire church family here at GEFC. For most of those men, it was first time someone else had ever washed their feet. I hope it was as meaningful to them as it was to me. I look forward to many years of partnering with these men for the cause of Christ!

Be sure to read my other blog entitled, "Hope for Hurting Pastors," at You can leave a comment at either blog or email me directly at

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Praying for Believers - LOVE!

Each Monday morning our entire staff here at the Gaylord E-Free church gathers together for an hour of praying for our church ministries, our church family and each other. Starting last Monday I am taking the first few minutes of this time to lead us in looking at the prayers the writers of Scripture prayed for other believers. I started yesterday with Paul's prayer for the Philippian believers in Philippians 1:9-11. We looked just at verse 9 this week as Paul prayed that their "love may abound still more in real knowledge and all discernment." Paul is speaking of agape love. In other words, it is a love that is active, not merely emotional or physical. From this verse we see three specific ways to pray for for other followers of Jesus when it comes to love.

First, pray that their love would be DIVINE! The fact that Paul said "I pray" that your love may abound shows us that the origin of Biblical love is divine. The Apostle John would say the same thing in 1 John 4:7 when he says, "love one another for love is from God." So we need to pray for each other that our love would be a love whose origin is divine.

Second, pray that their love would be DYNAMIC! Paul prays that their love "may abound." This is a word that means to flood or to overflow. It is the idea of excess and it is written in the present tense. Paul is praying that their love would continually abound, continually overflow. So let's pray for other believers that their love, whose origin is from God, would overflow in their lives.

Third, pray that their love would be DECISIVE! Paul prays that their love would abound in two areas. First, that it would abound in "real knowledge." Real knowledge is the knowledge found in the Word of God. He also prays that their love may abound in "all discernment." This is the application of God's Word. Biblical love grows when we know and apply the Word of God to our lives. That is why Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Love and obedience to God's word are inseparably linked together.

So this week I will focus my prayers for other believers I know in this way. I will pray that they would demonstrate in an overflowing way a love that comes from God and which is grounded in a real knowledge and application of the Word of God in their lives.

Be sure to read my other blog entitled, "Hope for Hurting Pastors" at You can leave a comment at either blog or email me directly at

Sunday, April 03, 2011

"I will die for Jesus?"

After the last supper ended, as Jesus and His disciples (minus Judas who had gone to complete his betrayal of Jesus) were walking from Jerusalem to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus dropped a bombshell of a prediction on them. He said, "All of you will fall away" (Mark 14:27). All of them that night would take offense at the danger their own lives would be in and they would each abandon their Lord. This prediction was a fulfillment of the prophecy given through the prophet Zachariah (Zacharia 13:7) and it included all of the disciples, even Simon Peter.

But Peter resisted these words of Jesus by saying, "Even if all fall away, I will not." On the surface that seems like a very courageous statement. If someone stood and made that statement in church we would all applaud, or at least shout "Amen!" But if you look deeply at the statement Peter makes you see two problems. First, it was prideful. Peter is communicating that his level of commitment to Jesus was greater than that of the other disciples. Peter's statement was also presumptuous. He was asserting to know himself better than Jesus did.

Due to Peter's protest, Jesus now takes the general prediction He had made about all of the disciples and narrows it down to a prediction only about Peter. He tells Peter that not only would he fall away, but on that very night he would disown Him three times. At this point Peter digs in. I imagine his face turned red and the veins started protruding from his neck. He insists in front of Jesus and the other disciples that even if it meant dying with Jesus, he would never disown him. But you know the rest of the story. Peter does deny Jesus that very night three times.

"I will die for Jesus!" That seems like such a courageous statement. I remember standing at the top of an old Roman Coliseum in Tarragona, Spain (pictured above) where many Christians were fed to starving, wild animals. I remember being given permission to go down and walk around in the coliseum but not being able to do so because I simply did not feel worthy to walk on that ground where so many died for their faith. "I will die for Jesus!" Could I really say that and mean it?

The truth is that I am not sure that it takes much guts for me to make that statement today. Why? Because I really don't think I will ever have to face that decision. Maybe I will, but I doubt it. In some parts of the world today that is a daily possibility for followers of Jesus. But for the most part, here in Gaylord, Michigan, it isn't a real threat - at least not at this time. So for me to stand and say, "I will die for Jesus," just doesn't take much guts. It doesn't take much courage! But you know what does take guts for me to say? It takes real courage to say this,